"A tree that is cultivated and guarded through the care of its owner produces its fruit at the expected time. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."

St Philip Neri

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.


By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP





Christian faith thus expresses this truth: "I believe in Jesus Christ who will come to judge the living and the dead." The symbol of St. Athanasius makes this doctrine more precise: At the coming of the Savior all men will rise with their bodies and will render an account of all their acts. Councils [131] teach a general resurrection, after which Christ will judge all men, on what they have thought, desired, said, done, and omitted, and will then give to each according to his works. Let us see what Scripture says on this point, and how theology explains this doctrine.


Many peoples have transmitted to us their belief in a supreme justice, which will manifest itself by sanctions beyond the tomb. This conviction shows the necessity of an individual retribution, and prescribes the individual judgment which must determine this retribution. But, besides this individual judgment we find, even in pagan religions, the conviction of a judgment that is to be final and universal. [132]

The first books of the Old Testament, although they manifest profound faith in the justice of God, nevertheless speak only obscurely of sanctions beyond the grave. [133] Yet even in the Old Testament we find affirmations like the following: "For all these God will bring thee into judgment." [134]

The prophets offer us a more precise announcement of this last and eternal judgment. Isaias, speaking of the eternal restoration of Israel, with "the new heavens and the new earth," says in the name of the Lord: "All flesh shall come to adore before My face." [135] He goes on to announce to the wicked their eternal chastisement. Daniel speaks still more clearly: "Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always." [136] Joel [137] writes: "I will gather together all nations and will bring them down into the valley of Josaphat [138] and I will plead with them there."

The Book of Wisdom [139] speaks in this same fashion. After describing the punishments reserved for the wicked after death, it says: "But the just shall live forever more, and their reward is with the Lord." [140] 10 In the Second Book of Machabees the seven brothers, martyrs, speak thus to their judge: "The King of the world will raise us up . . . in the resurrection of eternal life . . . but thou by the judgment of God shall receive just punishment for thy pride." [141]

In the New Testament the universal judgment is often announced by Jesus. [142] "Woe to thee, Corozain! Woe to thee, Bethsaida! . . . I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you." [143] "The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas, and behold a greater than Jonas here." [144]

This universal judgment is presented as the work of Christ, above all in the great discourse on the end of the world, as preserved by the three Evangelists. [145] "When the Son of man comes in His glory and all His angels with Him, then shall He sit on the seat of His majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats." [146] Jesus, speaking of His passion, says to the high priest: "Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming in the clouds of heaven." [147] In St. John's Gospel [148] we read: "He that despiseth Me and receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth him. The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last days." "Everyone who . . . believeth in Me . . . hath everlasting life; and I will raise him up in the last day." [149] "The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." [150]

In the Acts of the Apostles St. Peter says: "Jesus commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that it is He who was appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead." [151] St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: "For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil." [152] Elsewhere [153] he speaks very clearly of the general resurrection and of the last judgment. "The enemy, death, shall be destroyed last.... Then the Son also Himself shall be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." [154] "There is no respect of persons with God. . . . (This will be made apparent) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." [155] St. John says in the Apocalypse: "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne. And the books were opened . . . and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works." [156]

The Fathers, both Latin and Greek, not only teach this dogma explicitly, but most vividly describe the last judgment. Let it suffice to cite St. Augustine: "No one denies, or puts in doubt, that Jesus Christ, as the Scriptures have announced, will pronounce the last judgment." [157]

The circumstances of this universal judgment are the following: the judge will be Jesus in His humanity, because His merits have opened the gates of heaven for us. The subject matter of this judgment will be the life of each one, his thoughts, his words, his deeds, his omissions, the good and the evil which he has done. The time of this judgment is certain, but only God knows it, [158] although He has given in the Scriptures certain signs of its approach. [159] "Nation shall rise against nation . . . and there shall be earthquakes in divers places and famines.... And unto all nations the gospel must first be preached.... And you shall be hated by all men for My name's sake," said Jesus to His disciples. "In those days shall be such tribulations as were not from the beginning of the creation which God created.... There will rise up false Christs and false prophets, and they shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. Take you heed therefore; behold, I have foretold you all things.... And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.... Watch and pray; for you know not when the time is." St. Paul [160] adds: "Let no man deceive you, . . . for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin (the Antichrist) be revealed (the judgment shall not take place)." [161]

St. Peter [162] writes: "The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with the burning heat. But we look for new heavens and a new earth [163] according to His (the Lord's) promise, in which justice dwelleth." St. Paul says: "The creature waiteth . . . in hope, because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." [164] The Apocalypse [165] announces the renovation of the world where once lived fallen humanity. The world will then be freed from all stain, and will be re-established by God in a state equal to, even superior to, that in which it had been created. The heavenly Jerusalem here spoken of is the triumphant Church, the society of saints, established in eternal life after the glorious coming of its Spouse. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and death shall be no more; nor mourning nor crying nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away." [166]

Reasons for the Last Judgment

St. Thomas [167] explains these reasons. First, dead men live in the memory of men on earth and are often judged contrary to truth. Spirits, strong and false, like Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, are judged as if they were great philosophers. False prophets and heresiarchs, such as Luther and Calvin, are considered by many to be masters of religious thought, whereas great saints and doctors are profoundly ignored.

Judgment Day will show how much value is to be assigned to certain histories of philosophies, to many studies on the origins of Christianity, written in a spirit absolutely rationalistic. It will show how their perpetual variations and contradictions come from their fundamental error, the negation of the supernatural. It will manifest all lying propaganda. It will unmask hypocrites who enslaved religion instead of serving religion. Universal history will no longer be seen as a mere horizontal line of time, passing from the past to the future, but as a vertical line which attaches each event to the unique moment of an immovable eternity. The secrets of the hearts will be revealed. [168] The Pharisees, Caiphas, Pilate, will be judged definitively. Truth will conquer all these lies. It is clear that, if God exists, truth must be the absolutely last word.

Further, the dead have had imitators, in good or in evil. Evil is easier to imitate. Truth and justice must be vindicated. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill."

Lastly, the effects of men's actions last long after their death. Arius and other heresiarchs troubled souls for some centuries, whereas, on the contrary, the teaching of the apostles will exercise its influence to the end of the world. Only a final and infallible judgment of God is here sufficient, and this cannot take place until the end of time.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent [169] says in substance: Divine justice wills that the good recover their reputation, often attacked by the wicked who triumph. Further, the body, as well as the soul, must receive the punishment or the reward which it merits. Hence the general judgment must follow the general resurrection. This judgment will oblige all men to render homage to the justice of God and to His providence. Finally, it is fitting that this judgment be carried on by Jesus Christ, because He is the Son of man, because men are to be judged, and because He Himself was unjustly judged by wicked judges.

The day of judgment is known by God alone, because the end of the world depends simply on the free will of God. But it will not come until the number of the elect is complete, and this number cannot be known except by Him who predestines. [170]

The apostles will judge with Christ, as Jesus announced; also those who are voluntarily poor, who have left everything to follow Christ. "He that shall humble himself shall be exalted.... He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble."

The Proud and the Humble

The author of The Imitation writes: "By what strange forgetfulness do you go forward without looking ahead to the day of judgment? Earth can be a grand and salutary purgatory. Look at the patient man who, more afflicted by the malice of others than by his own injury, prays sincerely for them who sadden him and pardons them from the bottom of his heart.... Better to purify oneself than to wait unto the next world.... Then every vice will have its own proper torment. Then the humble will have great confidence, and the proud man will be surprised. Then we shall see how wise was he in this world who learned to be despised for Jesus Christ. Then there will be applause for tribulation suffered with patience. Then the scorn of riches will have greater weight than all the treasures of the earth. Good works will outweigh beautiful words. All is vanity except to love God and to serve Him. He who loves God with all his heart fears neither death nor judgment nor hell, because perfect love gives us secure access to God." [171]

The Imitation continues: "We must consider the secret judgments of God, lest we be proud of what we have done. Let your peace not depend on the judgments of men. Humbly commend everything to God, who alone knows all. Reverence the secret judgments of God. Ye that are humble, rejoice; ye that are poor, dance with joy, because the kingdom of God is for you." [172]

Blessed those who, like Bernadette of Lourdes, hear this word: "I promise you happiness, not in this life, but in the next." This was a special revelation. She was predestined, but she would have great crosses on earth. All genuine Christian lives are marked with the cross. Crosses well borne are a sign of predestination, says St. Thomas. A rain of afflictions is better than a rain of diamonds. This truth we shall see clearly after death. [173] Providence will then appear absolutely irreproachable in all its ways.


131. Denz. nos. 54, 86, 87, 429, 693.
132. Dict. theol. cath., "Judgement".
133. The reason for this is that the Old Testament is subordinated to the New, that is, to the coming of the Savior, whereas the New Testament is immediately subordinated to eternal life. Hence the New Testament often speaks much more explicitly than the Old
134. Eccles. 1l:9.
135. Isa. 66:15-24.
136. Dan. 12:1,2.
137. Joel 3:2.
138. This denomination is symbolic. The word "Josaphat" means "Jahve is Judge." The word can be applied to any place where God chooses to execute the general judgment.
139. Wisd. 5:15. (Second century before Christ).
140. Ibid. 6:6 and 15:8.
141. II Mach. 7:9, 36.
142. Matt. 11:21, 23.
143. Ibid., 12:41.
144. Luke 10:12-14; 11:31.32; Matt. 16:27.
145. Matt. 25:31-46.
146. Ibid., 25:31; Mark 13:27; Luke 21:27.
147. Matt. 26:64.
148. John 12:48.
149. Ibid., 6:40-44; 40:44, 55.
150. Ibid., 11:25; 5:29.
151. Acts 10:43.
152. II Cor. 5:10.
153. I Cor. 15:26.
154. Rom. 2:11-16.
155. Ibid., 14:12; II Cor. 11:15; II Tim 4:14.
156. Apoc. 20:12.
157. De civitate Dei, Bk. XX, chap. 20, no. 33.
158. Mark 13:32.
159. Ibid., 13:7-33.
160. II Thess. 2:3.
161. The apostasy of which St. Paul speaks is that referred to by St. Matthew, 24:11, 13,:2-25, by St. Luke, l8:8 and 2l:28. It is the apostasy of peoples after charity has become cold.
162. II Pet. 3 :12.
163. Isa. 65:17.
164. Rom. 8:19.
165. Apoc. 21:1.
166. Supplementum, q.91, De qualitate mundi post iudicium.
167. IIIa, q.59, a.5; Supplementum, q.88, a.1 ad 1; a,
3; q.91, a.2.
168. Luke 2:35.
169. Catechism, First Part, chap. 8.
170. Supplementum, q.91, a.2.
171. Bk. 1, chap. 24.
172. Ibid., Bk. III, chap. 14.
173. We may note that peoples who are Christians and Catholic often undergo sacrifice, as for instance, Poland. It seems that for many of these children the Savior has said: "I have promised thee happiness, not in this life, but in the other life."